"We believe in each other" - how young people build peace

Fundamentalism in Indonesia is gaining strength. The series of terrorist attacks in May 2018 showed this with sad clarity. The interreligious youth network Jakatarub in West Java strengthens peaceful coexistence in the young democracy.

Their names are Clara, Christo and Rudy, they are between twenty and thirty, they study management or teach English and belong to the older active members of the interreligious network Jakatarub. This works from Bandung, the provincial capital of West Java, a hotspot of religious intolerance. We met around a dozen of the young peace activists from Jakatarub for a talk in Bandung and wanted to know why they are campaigning for religious peace in their country.  There is a tidy atmosphere in the group and a lot of laughter. But when asked whether they are aware of cases of violence against freedom of religion or have even experienced them on their own bodies, the mood becomes serious. A young woman says she must wear a veil on the university campus. Her seat neighbour reports that in his family it is said that anyone who has contact with people of other religions goes to hell.

The interreligious youth network Jakatarub organizes every year with the support of Mission 21 and together with the Pasundan Church a youth camp or "Interfaith Youth Camp" - so that the young participants overcome their prejudices against other religions, ethnic groups and social classes, get to know and appreciate the religious diversity and afterwards become active in interreligious groups themselves. Jakatarub pleads for religious tolerance with sensational campaigns in public and via social media. 

All participants in the talks are enthusiastic about the peace network, in which denominations come closer together and even have their doubts about religion. "Jakatarub opened my eyes to the fact that Indonesia is characterised by diversity and that I want to work for it," said one of the young adults. Today he thinks a lot about what charity means in his religion and what he can personally do for tolerance and peace. 

Over the years Mission 21 has built up trusting relationships with Christian partner churches, but also with Muslim educational institutions, NGOs and the Indonesian Federation of Churches. "This makes us a credible counterpart and actor in interreligious peace work in Indonesia," says Katharina Gfeller, responsible for the Asia programme of Mission 21. The Protestant Mission wants to further develop the interreligious educational offer for religious teachers at secondary schools. In addition, two further project in partnerships with Muslim nonprofit organizations are to be established in Indonesia. For, according to Katharina Gfeller of Mission 21: "Only with united forces can we strengthen peace".

Text: Anna Wegelin and Mara Wirthlin

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